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Back in Black

A letter from the editor of 5280's June 2019 issue.

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On my second day visiting Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park with two colleagues, ranger Steve Kay took us to the North Rim. It was a bluebird April morning, and after checking in at the rustic ranger station, we wandered down to the edge of the canyon. There, we settled on a rocky ledge and gazed into the depths of the ancient gorge. Looking at the Black Canyon, it’s difficult to comprehend why it’s the least-visited national park in Colorado, and one of the least visited in the entire country. Part of that is likely because it’s only 20 years old—too young to have built the reputation of, say, Yosemite or Yellowstone. And part of the reason could be that it’s hard to get to. Sitting there with my hiking shoes on the precipice, though, I was struck by the grandeur of the Black—and a little disappointed that the rugged landscape isn’t better-known. The Black’s relative obscurity could, I thought, be attributed to more than just meager reputation and remote location. As deputy editor Lindsey B. Koehler explains in “The 5280 First-Timer’s Guide to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park”, “the inner canyon is a designated wilderness area, so there are no maintained trails leading to the Gunnison River at the bottom of the chasm.” In short, the Black plays hard to get, but for me, that unapproachability is the attraction. Knowing Coloradans, I would think the canyon’s untamed recesses would be similarly irresistible, if only they were aware of them—which, thanks to Koehler’s comprehensive first timer’s guide, they hopefully soon will be.

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